Thursday, February 28, 2008

"Metallica: Some Kind of Monster" (Documentary) (2004) - Movie Review

Stardom, fame, money is a long gone achievement of no importance and the inopportune to face the aging is where we see the band Metallica at the beginning of the film. The bass player Jason Newsted quits the band, the relationship between the drummer Lars Ulrich and the front man James Hetfield is in ripples as it had been for very many years and the band is falling apart. But the doubt or may be with my insufficient college band experience, the conflicts are an approved despiteful stimuli to proceed the music journey. So when the film was over, I thought whether all these problems and issues is a routine for them to go through while making an album? May be but this time, they address it. Whether it gets solved permanently is unknown but they take a monumental step towards discussing it. They further go and shoot it with some open sessions with Phil Towle, their therapist (even though it seems he revoked his license due to a problem he has which gets addressed in the film too). The film is directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky.

The film shot over span of two years and odd is as naked in its form of exposing these metal rock legends. With things going berserk around them, producer Bob Rock plays bass which makes him to participate in the sessions too. Lars is more welcoming to the sessions while Hetfield is clearly disinterested in it. It does take a lot of courage to show them emotionally exposed when their music and attitude to the public amplifies macho level to high decibels. Here we see them of course getting angry due to lot of buried or resurfacing past. In almost twenty years, Lars and Hetfield being best buddies have lost time and the patience to sit and talk openly about their issues.

As the tension level rises up, you see this lean lead guitarist rarely voicing up to tell his feeling. The lead guitarist is Kirk Hammett who as in his character never loses or is in the business of conflicts. He tells he consistently tries to be the egoless person and the time he comes about in the soap operatic moments between James and Lars is next to nothing which makes him the official pacifier and go to guy for this band. When I say soap operatic moments, it is reality TV. But then there is honesty unlike the manipulated TV shows. It does interview Jason Newsted and in fact goes back to Dave Mustaine who was in the band in 80s for couple of years (which I did not know). Jason Newsted quit while Mustaine got kicked out because he got drinking problem. If a band that popularly was called “Alchoholica” kicks out some one because he had drinking problem, it blows your mind.

Editing for the film would have been a challenging task as it spanned for two years with shooting almost the entire two year. Does the band go through an emotional catharsis? It appears they personally do, even though the film only shows couple of those changed scenarios. I believe the reason they made this film is personal too and some might have been edited out which is understandable. The point of learning that they have undergone a major character change in their faces and to see Hetfield’s smiling face before he stages upon to stand in front of thousands of people is solid enough evidence for that. The film is very personal in those manner and for them to distribute is something strange. Yet understandable.

In “Cast Away” when the character of Chuck Noland leaves the island he spent with no human contact for nearly four years, he sees it with somber tragic eyes and cries insane when he loses his only buddy, Wilson a volley ball in seas. That is the attachment you create with a place or a living non living thing even when the greatest trouble happens out there or with them. And when Phil Towle their guidance guy goes through that it reminds every one is vulnerable, expendable and ultimately can disappear into the vortex of these human dynamics and attachments.

The movie is made when the album “St. Anger” was being recorded. I am not particularly a big fan of the whole album apart from selected songs. The band thrashed each of its ego, animosity, hate and rage into the album which is uncovered in this film. When you learn about the basis of the genesis of why they play what they play and why it sounds and means a lot to them and many others, you learn to respect and may be even love their style of music. The same kind of understanding goes through between the main trouble getters among themselves, Ulrich and Hetfield. For nearly two decades even the honest opinions of each have been scrambled as personal attacks and for once after two years, they are ready to listen to one another. It might look like how spoiled they are to not hold it together and in fact their former bassist Newsted resonates that, but there is nothing wrong in accepting being helpless and more than that show it to the world of the progress they made.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

"Awards, do we need one?, I believe so"

Awards at this juncture of time wherein I have pretty much watched all the movies nominated (and the once which deserved and got snubbed and the blatantly ineligible kinds), I have dilemma on having such an award in first place. Most of the art lovers do their work on the basis of one and only thing sub consciously or consciously which is their self satisfaction and conviction. Some while work for the future, want to make a living out of it and beat them up to achieve the fame and fortune will at certain point know that it is a mirage for the happiness but a great motivator. But on the other side, I eagerly expect the awards too. Mainly for the celebration of the films and the chance to see the real stars and appreciate and applaud as a distant fan and movie lover to their contribution to the art in many different ways. The most recognized and popularized one has the Academy Awards while there are numerous others too but Oscar is the best night for the stars and the fans.

While the usual way is the guessing who will win but I want to do something else. I am going to write a little bit what I feel about the nominations and as it go the winners as well. But mainly it will also accommodate the people who got snubbed too. Even before that the mentioning of the movie “Into the Wild” will be pretty high since it is my best movie of the year and hence bear with the repetition of it.

“Atonement” is a very well made film and I purely enjoyed the ending of its tragic lost souls and the characteristic of story telling which with perfection got transferred from the book (I have not read it though but get the essence of how it would be) to the screen. It did not stand out for me as many other good movies did. “Juno” and “No Country for Old Men” has been universally endorsed as the best films by many but my heart weeps for “Into the Wild”. This is one movie which achieved many levels not alone in grasping the character of the lone wolf Christopher McCandless but the art of capturing by Sean Penn is mystifying, emotional, comical and enthralling life experience. “Michael Clayton” is a better movie than “Juno” and “..Old Men” which had a terrific screenplay and masterful story telling with three character studies performed to match the material. “There will be Blood” comes as my second best movie of the year with P.T. Anderson scoring once again by his style and pure artistic zeal he has over the films. With Daniel Day-Lewis is proclaimed unofficially as the winner for the Award, it is Anderson’s vision in to this piece of a story telling which he has exercised in every movie of his will give me happiness if it gets its reward. “Magnolia” missed the opportunity and this would be a good deserved recognition for him.

Apart from “Into the Wild”, the other movies which missed its part to be on lime light are the “Rescue Dawn”, “Away from Her” and yes “Hot Fuzz”. I do not know when there will be a great common perception towards making a comedy and drama is going to be no different. Why cannot we celebrate comedy? Is a serious and tragic tone for a film is an unwritten rule to appeal for artistic glory? In this tale of spoofs, it did a tribute to the genre which entertain tons of general audience who have been seasoned to view the ridiculous action blockbuster see something a style working in multiple dimension perfectly. And with sincere acting from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, this is one of many films over the past 80 years would have missed the awards miserably.

“Zodiac” is one another forgotten master piece which solely got completely eliminated from the race due to its time of its release. So now it is unwritten rule number two that release at the end of the year so that people would not forget it.

I should not blindly blame the Academy because they have the onus task of selecting and sadly marking one as winner since everything this year is well talented, executed and achieved films. It would be great if they could at least have a segment of the good films which came this year and that would make many people to go and view those. Award movies are another marketing tool to increase the DVD sale and rentals. But in the business of money making many forget the true nature of this craft and ingenuity of these people.

With this let me get into the nominations and my picks!

Best Picture of the Year
- Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, There will be Blood

Ashok’s Award – “Into the Wild”. When you see some one so idealistic and yet tragic, reckless human all put together in a wonderful pieces in a pitch perfect supporting cast and beautiful artsy film, it is absolutely fantastic. My heart will weep for this film which will not reach as much as other nominees.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
- George Clooney for “Michael Clayton”
- Daniel Day-Lewis for “There will be Blood”
- Johnny Depp for “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”
- Tommy Lee Jones for “In the Valley of Elah”
- Viggo Mortensen for “Eastern Promises”

Ashok’s Award – I would give two awards - Emile Hirsch for “Into the Wild” but trust me, Daniel Day-Lewis is hands down the best for this category. Period.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
- Cate Blanchett for “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”
- Julie Christie for “Away from Her”
- Marion Cotillard for “La Vie En Rose”
- Laura Linney for “The Savages”
- Ellen Page for “Juno”

Ashok’s Award – Julie Christie for “Away from Her”. In her brilliance portrayal of an Alzheimer affected person, Christie gives some one who is losing herself and unknowingly hurting her husband who is deep pain and craves for attention from her. And what the heck is Cate Blanchett’s name for “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” doing out in this nominee list?

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
- Casey Affleck for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”
- Javier Bardem for “No Country for Old Men”
- Philip Seymour Hoffman for “Charlie Wilson's War”
- Hal Holbrook for “Into the Wild”
- Tom Wilkinson for “Michael Clayton”

Ashok’s Award - Hal Holbrook for “Into the Wild”. If tears does not cups up in your eyes when Holbrook tries to convince Chris McCandless played by Emile Hirsch to stay, then you got to talk to some one about your attitude towards fellow human beings. Alright, I kind of went too much with that but this is one category which is quite tough to pick one as with for any other. Affleck was annoyingly brilliant in “….Coward Robert Ford”, stone cold representation of evil by Javier, cleverly and acerbic open CIA executive by Hoffman and the guilt filled character played by Wilkinson deserve the award. I would have loved to have Gordon Pinsent been nominated for “Away from Her”.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
- Cate Blanchett for “I’m Not There”
- Ruby Dee for “American Gangster”
- Saoirse Ronan for “Atonement”
- Amy Ryan for “Gone Baby Gone”
- Tilda Swinton for “Michael Clayton”

Ashok’s Award – I have not seen “I’m Not There”, so please forgive me for eliminating Blanchett. I would go for Tilda Swinton even though Amy Ryan through her character did a wonderful job of pissing off many people in “Gone Baby Gone”.

Directing, I would go for P.T. Anderson while screenplay written directly for screen it is definitely for “Michael Clayton”. Writing from previously produced or published, I would go for “Away from Her”.

Alright, I have not addressed all the awards and categories, but I do need to thank Oscar Awards for setting all the movie lovers to take a stand to choose something single which is cruel and also gives something to write. The awards have begun and let me relish the evening.

P.S: I need to come back and edit the content, as I am impatient right now to check out. Ok, do not laugh, I do read once or twice.

"Be Kind Rewind" (2008) - Movie Review

Michel Gondry can make most of the films made in “Be Kind Rewind” in the similar style and manner the characters Jerry (Jack Black) and Mike (Mos Def) with fancy craft work which not only appeals as comedy but a weird creativity. This does not save the film which has very many flaws and becomes a saga of sympathetic appreciation for a run down store in a small town to have a chance to succeed.

Gondry creates Kansas City with couple of small boxes and mashed potato to enact a scene and recycles the waste materials from electronics, utensils and garbage to innovate a 20 minutes film version of “Ghostbusters”, “Rush Hour 2”, “’Driving Miss Daisy”, “Robocop” and many other movies. It is smartly funny in the creation of it but we never get to see a complete 5 minute scene of a 20 minute movie to accept that the people really like the version of theirs. The making is fun but is the viewing the same experience? We never get to see one major chunk of the short films they make and that test the credibility.

Jerry, Mike and their accomplices in this film making idea turn dumb and smart as and when they needed. And Mike not getting the mirror written version of what his owner Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover) says is a little unbelievable for some one who can come up with such creativity. To make things clearer, Mike works in a run down video store around an old corner building in the city of Passaic, New Jersey. They are still in the age of VHS and clearly the building needs renovation which the city hall people suggest. Jerry is a mechanic who does not do much of automotive work rather he hangs out with Mike and believes the old outcast philosophy of everything is manipulated biologically by the government.

To get the long story short, a sabotage gone wrong to leave Jerry “magnetized” which should obviously destroy the tapes is the premise. This part of the story is clearly unnecessary as it not removes the reality from the picture but also the logic. So does the magnetization forms a sub plot? Nope and it conveniently goes when the plot no longer needs it any more at all. The meat of the story is the home made low cost movie making and to make that happen you need the tapes destroyed. To have Jerry go through the fantasy process pinches us. A simple water damage or robbery is good enough to get those tapes out of the picture and draw in the plot. And the plot is that Jerry and Mike start shooting their version of the made movies.

To have a VHS rental store initially appeared unreal but later it felt not a surprise for an old neighbourhood town to have old people refusing to move ahead and not to get tangled in the media technology advancement. As always for Gondry, his sets are fragile, dusty and some times even creepy. His vision is something unique and that’s the reason his films even bad reaches and has that characteristic to sit in the viewers long after the movie is over. Out here I loved how “Rush Hour 2” was made especially the hanging scene and how they fall. That scene can only be contrived from a person who has the multidimensional image factory running in his brain.

I really wanted to love and like “Be Kind Rewind” but the feel good saga in the end only made it bad. Gondry’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is one of my favourite movies and I always sit and hope for the best from him. To get disappointed twice in the same week from him (I watched “The Science of Sleep” in DVD this week) is disheartening. But Gondry’s creative work has the sustaining capability for very many coming years. There are certain directors even with minimal success are in the list to be expected a lovely film time after time. For me Michel Gondry is one of them for his immense visuals out of the discarded every day product in material and in films. Who would have thought there can be a funny interesting making of the recreation of “Robocop”?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

"Vantage Point" (2008) - Movie Review

If you think “Death of a President” is too much to handle for showing the fictional assassination of George W. Bush, you got to think a lot about viewing the assassination of the fictional character, President Ashton (William Hurt) of the United States multiple times. Of course there is a vast difference in the seriousness and the tone both the movie take but it does get too much after four times. Now when you are mentioning the great classic movie “Rashomon” as a reference to the style, you better be careful in living up to it in your own way. And I did not go with the intention of a classic but a fun entertaining action flick with an approach taken from one of the best movie classics. I was with it for I guess some where around third or fourth part (I do not recall how many “views” it was shown) and then…you get it.

The view as they say is not the eye of the characters. It is the particular scene wherein the character takes the center stage and we get some more pieces of information to whatever the suspense they are building up. The trailer supposedly says that there is more than one suspense unraveling and they do show one or two in the rush up of it which would have made it more interesting to be seen in the film. The first piece from the “GNN” news network center is the best of all. It is chaotic and tears the wounds of exploitative journalism by the producer Rex (Sigourney Weaver). Everything is quick and keeps us wide awake for the next part. The plot is that in a big huge summit in a city located in Spain, the President is assassinated and as different parts of views are shown, we get to know the truth or whatever it is because after a point we do not really care.

It sure sky rockets the pace and does entertain a promising end. I was never bored until the ridiculous car chase which goes on forever and the repetitive scenes of the assassination and the succeeding blasts. Now the biggest cheating is that they do not reveal everything to us. In the episode of the secret service agent Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid), he sees the video of the tourist Howard (Forest Whitaker) and exclaims “Oh! My God” and the video we get to see it later but it is not suspense when you do something like that. Similarly the real suspense they hide about is also seen by Barnes but we never get to see it until the end. This is not a fair game. In “The Prestige” which also does not reveal certain details to the mind blowing suspense, we know the ruthless characters of these magicians and it tells a lot about the actions. Here it is used only to trump us and give the director the final laugh in succeeding the actual plot suspense.

Conflicting thoughts emerged as I was in the middle of the film. I was definitely been kept upon interested on the outlooks but the more it rose, the more I was expecting a big convincing climax. When you boast so much of stand in giving a style of a fast entertainment, there should not be a character placed for fixing the plot.

It is a heavy disgrace to compare “Rashomon” to this but there needs to be a proper explanation to address the points made for it. In “Rashomon” all the characters tell a story involving them in completely different ways and in each they will be implicating themselves. Here it is more of the director’s multiple views following one or more characters in light for that period of time. The style I need to accept works half way and then becomes annoying. The Japanese film had a deeper concept for its usage of such a style and still is entertaining. I would not accept the tag/genre saying it is an action film which should need much dissection since they publicize it way too much.

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Amorros Perros” should be named as the origin for this film than “Rashomon” and it still is a disgrace to that film too. I would have had the film let go if not for the ridiculous car chase and the much talked multiple views. “Vantage Point” directed by Pete Travis should have trusted the first half of the material and worked on it rather than relying on a stunt which baffled and confused.

"Charlie Bartlett" (2008) - Movie Review

When there is effort visible enough for the prospective good characters and considerable story line which fails as a collective one, it does make it hard and sorry for the creators of a movie. “Charlie Bartlett” which has some original characters wandering around some of the stereotypic ones fails a bit even though there are some good performances and a great character study. The connection with us is never made or to be precise there is depletion of overall film experience even with a satisfying end.

Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin) is a kid pushed into being an adult in a wealthy family to take care of his mother Marilyn (Hope Davis) who is been in a numb state of emotion because of depression and medication. And he does like it when we get to see him getting involved in counseling the students and even starts prescribing medication. With an on call psychiatrist for the family, it is made to appear that he can easily convince the doc to get more drugs. Being kicked out of private school for running a fake license entrepreneur, in the new public school he wants to be noticed as any other kid.

Anton Yelchin has the title character to play. We see Bartlett as the nerd but a different one. He is cool as cucumber in the most disastrous situation and we come to realize his trap of an adult exterior under his teenage skin only near the end. He has issues with his father who is not available to unburden him. His mother loves him and also in an emotionally paralyzed state in advocating or bringing up her son. He wants to be a teenager inside. And with the educational information of the school scenario through films, I take it as the age to be popular is in high school. As with most of the high school films, we do not see kids studying. We see them rebellious, bullies, nerds and a principal who is been hated. Here it is Principal Gardener (Robert Downey Jr.) who also has an emotional issue apart from having a teenage daughter Susan (Kat Dennings). Overall the surrounding people around Charlie are seriously messed up and have no clue in dealing with it. And Charlie is a man to hear them out which start from his fellow students.

The film takes itself seriously around the mid point of it which is the right move; because that’s when there is something we get to know about these people. As in “Igby Goes Down”, this is a strong outspoken kid and this is not as bad as that one. Igby who does not take responsibility at any point of time even with lot of opportunities for his support and survival, Bartlett is a complete opposite of him. Even when he sells drugs and partners himself with the bully Murphey (Tyler Hilton) to make and business out the fighting videos (which by the way is seriously disturbing), Yelchin’s face of innocence going hand in hand with the maturity in handling it makes us to brush away the negativity involved in it. That marks the dark comedy territory covered for some parts.

I guess the contemplation of declaring it as a good movie is becoming hard in this case is the unfortunate routines taken in an independent genre film. The dream sequence, the odd work of mischief to get expelled and the dysfunctional mother is too much of a known recipe for a witty dark comedy and a moody drama piece. But a person got to start some where and director Jon Poll chose that. Also Downey Jr. does not get a solid surface to lay his alcoholic character to face upright at any moment only for the last part.

At the end, “Charlie Bartlett” marginally scales up and it would satisfy many viewers who are in search of an approachable independent film. This would be prick in the heart for an avid film goer and a welcome difference for the not so film addicts. The depth, obsession and the love over films does make me on very rare occasion to be a firm narrow minded self proclaimed esoteric scholar and deny the slightest impurity in an attempt for good picture. It came out during “Charlie Bartlett”.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

"What Dreams May Come" (1998) - Movie Review

After life and the merry making imagery of heaven along side the turbulent violent hell are the major elements to explore in “What Dreams May Come”, a film based upon the novel of same name by Richard Matheson. It has the shades of getting into as a Sunday TV movie and I say it in a good way for its theme. It has the sorrow we never feel it too much and happiness we never enjoy too much. We do enjoy the use of genuine graphics and the improvisation of it which does not compromise for cheap shots. It is a film with lot of integrity and that makes it a good film.

With rapid slow advancements in to the life of the couple who carry sparks at their first sight, Chris Nielsen (Robin Williams) and Annie (Annabella Sciorra), we learn their instant love and deepest tragedies. After loosing their children, Marie (Jessica Brooks Grant) and Ian (Josh Paddock), for four years their sorrows have come to an understanding. But fate at its own terms takes Chris too leaving the fragile Annie on the verge of another breakdown. Chris wakes up and here is what the film holds its stand together, Chris baffles by the happening around him witnessing his own funeral but the acceptance of the situation is so swift, thinking back it we feel happily swindled. He is guided by a pleasant man Albert (Cuba Gooding Jr.). Chris is been acclimated to his new place and like Neo getting his lesson from Morpheus in “The Matrix”, Chris gets it from Albert only more friendly in a beautiful location.

If not for the essential graphics, the film would have fallen in many places making it uninteresting. The concept of after life are smeared but not dug. Pegging the script with some important flag points, it transpires into a romantic story migrating into adventures. But on its journey it reveals sweet surprises and since we do not know much about Chris, his back ground and his real relationship with the people he admired and loved, those blossom as good believable and appreciable plot points.

Director Vincent Ward uses colours in a visually dominating film as the mind imagines it. When Chris drops himself among a painted generation of reality, we know it is painting and the objects when smashed and squashed by Chris oozes paints. Hence it is a fantasy of faithful generation of an art. Similarly the shots of people flying and the streams glitter its shiny smooth water amongst the rocks and pebbles are comforting into a painful situation Chris is in his thoughts.

It is a great way to look at death and may be expect it with some cheerfulness. Having that in mind while watching, the pessimistic mind called it as a cheap deception to face the pitch dark abyss too. And it brings the question of reality, the thoughts and the physical attribution of the mind pinched thoughtfully in m&m (or Cadbury’s Gems) moments only leaving us begging for more.

A hero fighting for saving his loved one from the impossible is always possible in the films. Chris gets a chance to be with his wife who has gone through hell on earth but only to be damned in literally for taking her life. They dance over the idea; no, actually they garner the religion based philosophy out here. It is more plot oriented than to preach upon which is a consolation.

“What May Dreams Come” does not aim high and knows that. It remains to its level and extends it in the arena where it has wide scope for excellence, the visual department. In that they did the job impressively and this earned them their Academy Award for Visual Effects. Robin Williams is so manly but when he holds the hand of any one, it is so damn comforting. It is not the macho aspect of being safe but something in the body language he does to the character. By the time this film was made, he patched up his stars in “Good Will Hunting” and a similar character oriented role in the same year with “Patch Adams”. For that and some greeting card after life fantasy, it is a comforting and feel good Sunday afternoon movie for the family.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"The Science of Sleep" (Language - English/French/Spanish) (2006) - Movie Review

When you are about to see Michel Gondry’s “The Science of Sleep”, it is unwritten rule that there is going to be complexity in unwinding the tale. Now I did not find it complex but utterly clueless and disconnected in many different ways possible. In recreating the illusions of dreams and weaving it with reality, it is creative but often boring and disoriented, which might be the reaction he would have wanted the audience to have but I guess I can relish those in my own dreams rather than over a DVD.

For a not so clear agenda, the film has a nice touch and sense to create the sequences of dreams. It has a promising opening sequence when the protagonist Stéphane Miroux (Gael García Bernal) cheerfully prepares a recipe for a dream in his dream. He moves back to France in his mom’s apartment whom we never see till the near end and in hopes of getting a creative job lands a boring and uninteresting work in a place which produces calendars. He meets with his neighbour Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her friend Zoé (Emma de Caunes) whom he is initially attracted. Then we see the topsy turvy universe of him. He thinks and we too think he is in dreams but it is a mixture of both or may be we are imagining that. Soon it is known that there is no use in identifying it since it is going nowhere at all.

The artistic experience and the imaginative stretch by any one are largely appreciated and I would love to see anything for it. Still Gondry’s work is too much of cocky intelligence and winking at us for something unreachable for any one. Dreams are an ideal tool for studying a character. It exhumes the wishful forgotten memories and scandalous thoughts inhibited in brain cells in fear of antisocial personality. It is a powerful naked reality which will never be revealed or even accepted by our own logical mind. Having an element of colossal force to dissect some one, we come to know only one thing about Stéphane that his French is not good and he has an aspiration to be the centre of attention (through his imaginary talk show).

The prop such as the one second time machine which by the way is an immaculate creativity is wasted too. The potential to drive a concept like this having certain attention points does not accumulate into a good movie. There is no analogy of life as such but a singular case of a distressed young man desperately needing some help which he never reaches for. In fact it does feel odd that a person of such a random overlapping of dreams and reality is been pursued or even been shed a conversation by Stéphanie. They do have the same imagination but it goes only that far. Or does Stéphanie too interpolate dream and reality as Stéphane does?

An abstract creative thought does have its audience to appreciate. I would and have been open to experimentations and patience in digging the film during and after the span of its running time. Considering the obvious discussion of everything happening as a dream or reality or combination of both results in nothing but blandness in knowing no one. When you finish watching a film, there should be something to be known about at least one character. Even understanding that one does not exist is an achievement as well or may be there is none at all is an accomplishment but it needs to be noticed and in a deep sense of unknown appreciativeness in the process too. “The Science of Sleep” occasionally wakes us up for morning freshness in the visuals but deeply darkens in to a clueless chaotic and pointless nightmare, which does not frighten rather creates a bland void.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"Do the Right Thing" (1989) - Movie Review

“Do the Right Thing” has so much of love and hate as that of one character has it in his hand as rings, right as love and left as hate. It raises the questions and the justification of the injustice done to many and leaves answerless. Made in 1989, the film not only qualifies as handling the racial tension with anger and violence walking over a wire but the technique in presenting has so much significance in the art of movie making. Spike Lee’s controversial movie of that time has mixed messages and we are baffled by how much of it exists right among different places under the name of country, state, culture and of course religion.

The film will have uncharacteristic comedy and end with a tragedy of humans as such a failed device of love. We will see an expected agitator and an unexpected simple man reacting on the spur of the moment. It is one bloody hot day in the neighbourhood of Brooklyn, New York which is Bedford-Stuyvesant. People are sweating; the air is burning and some where in the daily livelihoods of this multi cultured and multi ethnic people is this swinging truth of hatred. Mookie (Spike Lee) a young man is working on a local Pizza place owned by Sal (Danny Aielo who gives a memorable performance) an Italian American with his two sons Pino (John Turturo) and Vito (Richard Edson). The day revolves around the shop and the streets meeting characters sword fighting words of racism either as a joke and most of the times in serious tones. How it snow balls into one big avalanche is “Do the Right Thing”.

Afraid by many that this would cause riots among the community (it did not though), Spike Lee ends the film with a contradicting note of what exactly is the right thing. Every body knows non-violence is the right thing but what happens when some one comes with the only notion of hurting? Do we sweet talk them in to the nature of love and explaining blood is bad? Or do we give a strong hard punch on their face? The immediate answer would be to punch from many of them including me but what happens if that results in some one mistaking or misinterpreting us? Where is the end? This whole revolving question goes on and on and as Lee planned in us. Racism is intolerable but even the most noblest and honest person will have fear while walking in a race or religion oriented neighbourhood if he or she is some one the people in that place have their own opinion as he/she has. Does it mean he/she is a racist on both the sides or is the person looking out for his/her safety? So much has the fear in to us that we have started to thrive on it. The medium of communication or to even a slightest reach out for dialogue never happens. As I have said in many reviews, it is easy to hate.

The characters in the film, most of them exist and appreciate each other’s presence. Sal explains the unnecessary anger his son Pino has towards the African American people when he truly believes his nativity to the neighbourhood both personal and in financial aspects. The scene where he sits across the table to share a soft spoken words of wisdom is what most of us require. But like Pino every one is impatient and mainly grows anger which outshines our logic. Similarly we have the old Da Mayor (Ossie Davis) who wanders over the street and gives his view to liberate some of the blur sighted youths. No one listens to both Sal and Da Mayor.

The film is one another reminder how a casual breath of remarks or unwanted comments pile up to become something detrimental and fatal. Pino continuously rubs shoulders with Mookie and Mookie does the same too when needed. But one thing is surprising, how come so many people do not go to work or do something apart from loitering around or sitting all day? May be that is one another reason Lee wants every one to look at as some one said, Idle brain of course is a terrific work shop for the devil.

The movement of different ethnic and cultural people in the land of US is a great thing but at the same time is the conflict of minds too. In 89 it reflects so much of it and sadly it extends even to the current situation. The camera angle is placed near to the faces of certain characters when confrontation and altercation happens. It is made such that they get on the audience’s face and as their sweaty skin rubs on, we get irritated as them. The element of hot and humid weather is such a precise depiction of the scenario and in fact it is an instrumental factor to burn the soft people to insolent personalities. And it happens here.

The action of the person who ignites the riot can be questioned, dissected and analyzed to death for its righteousness. But how can we miss the loss of a human being? And when it is being questioned, who started this whole thing in first place? See, the situation itself has started questioning and with every effort possible, we begin to find the blame. Blame is on every one, for their independent actions, their off hand remarks, carelessness, irresponsibility and hatred. If one thing “Do the Right Thing” strongly states, it is what many great films shout, “Listen”.

Monday, February 18, 2008

"La Vie En Rose" (Language - French) (2007) - Movie Review

Musical icons often have a tragic personal life. Most of them depress over their abundance of attention which soon becomes from a delicacy to something irritably caustic. The zest in their talent and the sudden control of events push them to embrace more than they can handle at one go. At its pace the suffocation begins and if missed for good friends and self realization, the life turns living hell. Such is the borderline case given in the biopic of singer Edith Piaf. There is art in this film but there is search for some thing else which we never get.

The film presented as fragments of memories of Piaf (Marion Cotillard) arbitrates in different life periods of the singer. I have not known about Piaf until this film. Brought up among the streets when her mother has little concern about the well being of Piaf and she sings leaving her unattended. The talent Piaf will be inheriting very soon and making her life through it gaining recognition. Taken away by her father (Jean-Paul Rouve) he leaves her with his mother (Clotilde Courau) who runs a brothel. She lands from being a waif to being among prostitutes who shower love, especially Titine (Emmanuelle Seigner). But soon does her father return and take her to the dungeons of streets there on we see how her life is a roller coaster with a constant hunt for something she never finds in her existence.

The non-linear technique in giving her life provides a great deal of story telling, at least for half of the time in the film. Its construction is particularly good at the beginning when we see very little difference in the change of behavioral aspects Ms. Piaf exhibits. We see her as an obnoxious, cranky and insolent lost person in both the cases. Her talent is phenomenal as on how such a strong and enigmatic voice is been generated from a puny body. There are people around her most of the times and there are key people who shape her singing career but even the closest acquaintance she manages to get are farther away from her personality. She is adamant, immature and clueless for whom singing is not only a passion but her only identification in the world. This makes her go limitless to stretch beyond boundaries. She is self destructive and the upbringing forms the major part of the reason.

As much as the powerful performance of Marion Cotillard projects this courageous and outspoken personality, as we see the last few days of Edith, we neither have sympathy nor have we understood her at all. The two hour and twenty minute movie makes us feel tired in a good way but everything is a hazy experience in the end. The impatience created by the film at various intervals does get anchored by key scenes and at the same time we get annoyed by the vacuum created by a dragging screenplay.

When the nominations for the Academy Award for 2007 were announced, the biggest shock is Cate Blanchett being nominated for Best Actress in her Queen Elizabeth role in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”. While her acting is appreciable the film is a terrible disaster and it gave me bad feeling of some one being nominated for their role in a bad movie. In that thought, if there is a superior performance in a bad movie, does it qualify for award? And I swallowed my own thought as it is more difficult to outshine the failure of film into a great performance. Even in that aspect Cate Blanchett’s performance does not substantiate the nomination but Cotillard’s deserves to win the award.

It is a film which appears to be great but only remain as a flimsy glimpse of thought than an established fact of beauty and tragedy of Piaf with her voice. The award winning performance of Cotillard is thus a perplex emotion in looking at the film. She gives the singer whom many of this generation might have not known and her enactment of her is honestly realistic. I may not have witnessed the great singer’s mannerisms but without that we can see the originality in Cotillard’s Piaf.

Director Oliver Dahan gives a glossy confusion. Piaf’s existence appears to be given with everything at the moment but soon we forget what happened. The retentivity of the story is weak and in a biopic it is a crucial part to stay with us. The reason for the biopic that gets completely dropped off as the story of Edith Piaf is told in “La Vie En Rose”. Hence we enjoy the scenes for the moment of it but at the end, our patience is lost and so does the story.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (2008) - Movie Review

“He is a human being” says Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) about the outlaw and cold blooded killer Jesse James (Brad Pitt). The context and the meaning he says carry different terms of inspection into this outlaw who became a legendary figure after his death. And in “The Assassination….” we see the world in which the men live by fear of this man and things remained as a mystical legend comes into light or at least a close proximity we can see on the state of mind of these people.

The title tells us how it is going to study these characters and arrive at that juncture to reveal what both of them have become. One Bob Ford has been fantasizing and obsessing over the tales of this ruthless and violent outlaw who murdered and plundered the states of Missouri and Kansas. But to see these people we need to know the world they were surrounded by and out here we see their gangs and compadres. There is Jesse’s elder brother Frank James (Sam Shepard), Dick Liddil (Paul Schneider), Wood Hite (Jeremy Renner), Ed Miller (Garret Dillahunt) and the brother of Bob Ford, Charley Ford (Sam Rockwell). The iconic state of terror Jesse James created is not felt by the presence of Brad Pitt but through the other characters showing the sense of fear when he is around. It is always the grapevine through which the manifestation of petrified feeling is generated.

The photography of Roger Deakins is a monumental character. We would see the clouds and skies in a different freshness of its pigments, there would be dried grass fields having golden aura and we would think that there is something odd about it. We would be haunted that so much of those fields and skies have been painted in many films having the same beauty but Deakins has the shade of colour mixture which should truly be recognized in the Academy Awards. The costumes and how Pitt wears them has the term defined as fit to perfection. They stand in the shadows of the trees and the other men, illuminated by the lights from lanterns, train lights and bright sunshine. Such is the presence that it has the antiquity in the air which travels across the screen. The same tone of course have we seen in the “The Illusionist” and the same cinematographer in “Jarhead” and “The Village” (which I have seen in parts). Yet there is a touch above significance in that been aiding the film in unknown measures with an ample support from the melancholic dark score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

It seems to keep our judgments away at the corner. If Robert Ford will be named coward for rest of his life, Jesse James honestly need to share it as well. Both the men did the things against the voice inside them telling them not to do. Jesse James practiced it to avoid until he slowly realized the value of life he took. Pitt gives the depressed and deteriorating James who goes through the mid life crisis. He begins to address himself in third person now and then. We realize he is regretting the faces he put down and the blood filled in his cupped hands. His practicing the ignorance faded away and as the first line of this review reads, he is a human being but with lot of problems in his head. If he is so messed up, here comes Bob (a) Robert Ford who meets his child hood hero, of course he still is a kid. Casey Affleck promptly nominated for Academy Award - Best Supporting Actor for 2007, gives a tough performance. Even his angry voice is childish enough to be regarded as the kid for all his life. He gives a man who sees the real hero or his ambition been blown in little fire drill encounters with the man himself. This transformation is a battle inside him and the strange relationship he has garnered with his hero is one another war to face.

We are constantly in fear as that of everybody when James is around. The dialogues are witty and profound. The beings they have become and how they have brushed with death so much that they begin to accept it or even want it is the purpose of this film. Sam Rockwell and Paul Schneider gives their part of support that they are the other men who admire and fear Jesse James but never want to be him either. The film works on various instances towards body language and eye contacts than the usage of short dialogues. We decipher those like them and understand.

The film concludes on how much of people regarded violence as an outpouring through Jesse James and how many in their own ways judged both these men. While both deserve the scrutiny of justice to be laid upon them, Ford before getting his life done earned a lot of money and humiliation. Such is the film’s absence of any female character (even though there is Jesse’s wife Zee played by Mary-Louise Parker but she rarely speaks), that when the first person to hear Ford’s confiding statements is so comforting.

Director Andrew Domnik works on these two personalities who were in many ways completely opposite still had this tie to play a rope-a-dope among them. The result is the heart filled with betrayal, depression and hate on themselves. When the title comes as the scene we have completely in terms with James and how Ford stands on a situation with no options he drew himself in. It is rather unfortunate that only one had to suffer the entire world’s cursing.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

"Jumper" (2008) - Movie Review

It would have been a cake walk to pitch this idea and get a green light on the script. Teleporting around the world and some one chasing them and then it ends there. No more meat to the product and hence have characters act dumb and dumber which makes “Jumper” a nice cool theme to lure the audience and after that fail them with an abysmal plot. This is the film adapted from a novel of same name by Steven Gould and I am not sure whether the book is of same cadre.

Director Doug Liman who has good eye for rapid action films like “The Bourne Identity” and “Go” has relied mainly on the phenomenon than the characters in “Jumper”. This leads the jumpers along with the other characters to be lost completely. There are no back grounds, not much of explanations but deep loud voice of Samuel L. Jackson now and then comes threatening for no reason. Young David (Max Thieriot) learns that he has the ability to teleport with a jolt around his from and to places pretty much anywhere in the world. Having to deal with a single abusive father and his mom (Diane Lane to the destructive story) leaving them at early age, he decides to call it time with his newly realized power. He moves to New York City and starts robbing banks. A particular character in the film “Thank you for Smoking” will say to promote smoking they will have a love making scene in the upcoming film between Brad Pitt and Angleina Jolie over space and then smoke. Another character will ask how to substantiate the atmospheric catastrophe in space and he will say that, “Sure we will have a simple line in the film like “Thanks for and so thing””. There are at least ten to fifteen of those in this film.

Eight years later, David (played by Hayden Christensen) is living high life with hitting girls in a pub in London for his night life. Also he chooses high elevation places to visit now and then or may be so that the camera can zoom out to give us the magnanimous location he has jumped. And for some one who can be as lazy as possible, he is physically damn fit. If you see a scene wherein he jumps to pick up a remote a foot away, we know who he is, one of us, the lethargic couch potatoes. So there is this strange group of people who are called as Paladins and the main agent (or maybe head Paladin or something) Roland Cox (Samuel L. Jackson) hunts these jumpers (apparently there are many jumpers and again the one line magic “It is been happening from medieval”). He kills them because they cannot be “God”. Even religious fanatics will not be so stupid to have an ideology like that. To see Samuel L. Jackson in this film is sad.

When these guys go about places, they are not aware of what might be there at the destination. A busy road or banging on a person but they are unnoticed for so many years (from medieval times). And they can take people along with them and leave them stranding in a nowhere place. In fact at one point, another jumper Griffin (Jamie Bell) teleports a running bus and you wonder so much for secrecy. They would have at least transported 10 – 20 people to some other country. Still no one is much concerned.

Now to the dumbest character in the whole movie, David’s child hood sweet heart Millie (Rachel Bison). David is thought to be dead during a bad prank turning him to drown from where he transports first. He comes back after 8 years and knocks on her door. Her mother comes out believes the word of this guy to be David and gives location of her daughter. If that’s stupid, he identifies her and she identifies him without any issue. Hold on, then he asks her to come to Rome and without any doubt she goes there. After 10 hours of first class flight, top luxurious hotel stay and couple of easy breaking into the Colosseum and finally an arrest and break out, she asks “You are not telling the truth”. It is so mean to the viewers to portray a character like this.

Doug Liman needs to choose the correct script for an entertainer next time. The teleport is cool but it gets boring in like 5 minutes. If they can teleport anywhere, why not space, of course with proper gears (which they can steal). It is like “X-Men” but “X-Men” have some explanation and mainly a character residing in each of them. They are confused and misguided. Pretty easily David steals and tells “Hey I was 15 and of course I am going to pay back”. He does not reform but gets a girl friend who finally knows what he is doing after an hour and half boring movie.

"Definitely, Maybe" (2008) - Movie Review

How come they make New York life glorify as the happening life of every one? The loft, the buildings, the crowded streets with beauty of this chaotic existence appreciating it amongst the curses and once again you see the city becoming a character in one another movie, “Definitely, Maybe”. In many cases the film is an uncanny resemblance to “High Fidelity” only that this one is friendlier than that (“High Fidelity” of course is a class of its own in presenting its story). “Definitely, Maybe” cannot get sweeter but never gets too much, which makes us to live in the fantasy land believing for its reality.

The movie opening consists of our ring breaker (which is the term I think/came up for not able to seal the deal in a relationship) Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) listening to a perfect song for a street walk juicing out the events, people and the colour of New York. He is going to pick up his daughter Maya (Abigail Braislin) who just has received a sexual intercourse lecture at her school. In order avoid her continuous bombardment of questions, Will is forced to explain his relationship fiascos and in that wanted her to find who her mom is. And by the way he is going through divorce. Hence starts the tale of Will Hayes and his three lovely girls with whom he falls in love and the other party does that too. His home town sweet heart Emily (Elizabeth Banks), an upbeat love and peace independent April (Isla Fisher) and the experimental, life on no strings, Summer (Rachel Weisz). Of course we get to know a lot only two of those and I will leave it to the audience to figure that out.

If you are rolling your eyes and sinking in to the thought of how many more films like this we need to witness in this lifetime, hold on. Because we will be cased up more with films like this but the good part is that if it is done as well as this one, we can be relieved. Wake up!

“Definitely, Maybe” is a funny, considerably cocky and corny story of a handsome young man who with the virtue of movie making meets ultimately beautiful Apsaras from heaven. Seeing Will brushing up women like this makes me (What can you say, I am the loser guy like many of you!) wonder whether this is how the “New York Life” works up. And there you have director Adam Brooks successfully makes considerable pain look like eating a cake. Will meets up with every girl, has a relationship or an eye contact to woo every now and then, then breaks up, then again meets them up again when he is in another relationship and the story goes on. We never get tired of it because there is a credibility in which the characters strike that chord of harmony. There are no outlandish romantic side kicking lines but the opinions towards life and the beliefs, values each have and not have caves as a meaningful conversation, mainly for once we can see why they are talking and enjoying the other’s presence.

Ryan Reynolds apart from being “Boyishly”’ charming, does a commendable job of growing with the story. We see him as this super ambitious kid from Wisconsin cupping his hands over the glasses of an office to see something promising at that moment, to later realize what he really wants. Romantic movies generally leave most of the real boring normal routine of life because we would not want to see that but as those mundane routines are punctuated by unusual happenings along with the knowledge of the routine, we acknowledge that unusualness That is one more reason is that we see their location in their life making the film move on with a maturity it gains up over the characters. Of course the focus goes on with Will as he is the narrator of this story to his daughter. And I liked the representation of the culture of 90s, technology dominance at its cusp of achieving its glory and of course Nirvana. I guess the films can now be made on the “90s” as it would be done for 60s and 70s. Quite true that we have started to live the fast life and 10 years appears to be 30 years.

There is a customary ending which is pretty much expected and we are ready to forgive for what it is because Brooks by that time has done a very good job in giving something original escaping all the possibilities of being routine. Yet I would have loved for leaving as it is, Will still lost in relationship because in reality aren’t we all always lost when it comes to relationships? The film while saying that in a manner wherein we do not feel much pain than required to make an impact but not pierce enough to make it miserable. It is the one thing which completely balances off the genre we would have been fell for in cheesy movies. Because the real pain Will would have gone through in all this break ups would have been unimaginable and Brooks make it feel only a miniscule fraction of it. It is because it is a single guy’s fantasy of reality.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"Death of a President" (2006) - Movie Review

When you wonder and also widely appreciate the freedom the country of USA provides, the sense of using exploitative material for promoting something brings about mixed feeling. “Death of a President” for me started as an exploitative film with insensitive premise and finished as an enthralling “who done it” fictional political thriller, even more to say having a stronger message reflecting the current scenario we are led to be in. It is delicate and viciously compounds our judgment we had over the film and the characters as such.

Director Gabriel Range along with his writer Simon Finch makes a mockumentary which goes about the events on the day of October 19th 2007 and the further events. The date did not happen when the film was released and it is the fictional date of the fictional assassination of the current President of the United States George W. Bush. As the secret service agent, former FBI personnel, president’s spokesman tell their day and the aftermath of that day we in a curious way start to see what the creators are trying to do out here. The reason it gave the exploitative nature is the brutal truthful enactment of this fictional events which in any means was not grotesque (thankfully) but is the feel of the reality that it threatens your imagination of that possibility. As the investigation is handled out the real possibilities of racial profiling, the hastiness and the pressure to close out activates us to think in diverse context.

It is disturbing to grasp a concept of a living person been shown killed. And it can be quite cruel for the family of Bush to go through this. And it really makes me to rethink my view towards this film. As it seems unreasonable to portray the ends of the message with a means something not much substantiated. But as a political and public figure along with attention, fame and power comes constant threats and hatred; is it the whole package to deal with? It seems almost heartless to answer it yes, but a creative independent process if be categorized for this is another thing to discuss and in fact jeopardizes the very nature of he freedom I was talking about. I was thinking how does it would have been for them to make a fictional president and do the same thing. The instrumental factor of this film is the shocking reality and it would have been lost completely by taking an asylum in fear of facing the creative reality. Apart from this political incorrectness, if we brush aside it and taking the other concerning messages which very much happens in the current world, it is a wonderfully made film blending reality and imagination to such a mastered timing execution.

There is a considerable part of the movie which creates uneasy restlessness. It happens sometime when the film completely shifts to a military family and starts to go through their history. We feel isolated and somewhat cheated but methodically do they bring the suspense and the terror we really face that Range almost chuckles at us for exposing the true identity of the film. The premise much made in a Hollywood styled film would have equally fetched the admiration and film making. But Range going for this form of medium to give in the same which almost escapes guiltless is both an appreciation towards his passion for path breaking approach but also the reality check very much needed in a tensed society as we are in currently.

To present such a film wherein the performance needs to be ruthlessly acting out being natural, the cast pulls it off almost to near perfection. I say almost because the blunder in one particular performance done by Eleanor Drake as President’s spokesperson/assistant I believe. She somehow misses in lot many opportunities that she is in a documentary styled picture rather than an official Hollywood backed film. This sometimes even becomes frustrating to see the off beat note in the whole movie. The rest of the cast does the job for their director impressively.

“Death of a President” will be and has been argued for citing it as insensitive and cheaply exploitative as to the level of torture porn movies. While I normally go very brutal against movies of that nature, Range somehow pulled it off without any major destruction of morality. I would suggest the people to look at the many highly active things which happens and how it has been showed honestly in this film. The premise is such an ignition to bring the seriousness and the gravity of the situation, the film is taking on. We are in a strange world of media manipulation, wrong judgments by good people and quite right judgment about that by very wrong people. “Death of a President” takes a look on our judgment towards it. To jolt us into that, it confronts with an attention flyer quite impossible to go unnoticed.

Monday, February 11, 2008

"Say Anything" (1989) - Movie Classics

“Say Anything” begins as a typical 80s high school kid’s film into something completely different and extra ordinary. It is said and referred as a pop culture significance which has marked as the best romantic movie of the modern times. And one cannot wonder how such a simple story worked magic that make us to love every character in this film. Let alone the sweet couple Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) and Diane Court (Ione Skye) but the lovable people who live around in their life. If I was blown away by “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset”, this is the inspiration to those with a childishness which surprises as at various instances into a mature truthful picture. “Say Anything” cannot be more fairytale and still make us believe that “ can happen to you”.

Set on the suburbs of sunshine rainy shores of Seattle, we see Lloyd surrounded loyally by two female friends Corey (Lili Taylor) and D.C (Amy Brooks) advising him not to infest ideas of dating the brainy school kid Diane which would only end up him getting hurt. And Lloyd says “I want to get hurt”. Easy to say. The easiness in which Cusack gives us the average guy with a charm and eloquence that when a guy in a party says to him, “That gives me hope”, we smile at our hidden hopelessness. But it is unbelievable that some one would not fall for Lloyd. He is a guy with a confidence of a huggable audacity. And he never admits he screws up or regrets saying something impulsive, because it is a pleasure to listen what he blabbers with cleverness. Diane is not the beauty or the sex symbol but a simple next door girl with mesmerizing eyes. The way they click is simply spectacular. Take this, he takes her to a party wherein he never gets a chance to speak but he adores her presence to let her be around. Just when we think it is a debacle, it is the sweet night she had in her high school life. There are scenes such as that with a subtle wit but a romance embedded with tiny beautiful treasures that it keeps flowing one after another.

Most of the romantic movies are a fantasy. A fantasy which falls in a pattern to be predicted such that falling in love, breaking up and reuniting is an industrial process for feeling good at the end. Director Cameron Crowe executes that process with a screenplay and dialogue so perfect to be natural but still gives the feeling of everything happening in wonderland. There will often be only one character that you want to love as a personal choice in real life and there are couples whom you just adore and be happy even in a world which you believe to be impossible. Cusack and Skye create that chemistry which makes them the sweethearts in such a small amount of time.

The film is not about the funny and moving romantic moments but a Diane caught up in between her father James Court (John Mahoney) and Lloyd. James likes Lloyd and Lloyd likes everyone. But James is in the cusp of sending her daughter off to a life of full security and career. Lloyd is seriously thinking about kick boxing, even though he thinks he is not great but good. And it does not work out like that. Lloyd knows Diane leaves in few weeks but he lives for the moment. I envy them when they trust their instincts and act impulsive even if they logically are aware of its demise. It almost looks as if it is fun to be ignorant or careless when it comes to strike a relationship.

“Say Anything” is the timeless chest for the time period of 80s music in various genres. Even though the famous shot of Cusack holding the boom box was already been revealed to me before the film, what a monumental scene is that? It is the collective representation of the character, music and the emotion it flurries upon.

The film takes us into this suburb land of possibilities; it touches and leaves the plausibility and credibility of these characters. Even the troublesome moments have a clandestine happiness in it. They tweak its impossibility by the virtue of some lies built over it but not the relationship. Movies like “Say Anything” are still rare to come. As I said, it stands tall above my two romantic favourites of all time, Linklater’s “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset”.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

"The Pursuit of Happyness" (2006) - Movie Review

The weight of Chris Gardener (Will Smith) is felt by us even from the first frame when he carries the Bone Density Scanners and leaves his kid, Christopher (Jaden Christopher Syre Smith) in a day care. He is pushing everything he has in a matchbox apartment in San Francisco. He runs his breath out, catches every possible closing bus, jumps on every possible train shuttle and crosses every busy path in the downtown area of San Francisco. As well he pulls the limit in these physical extremities of daily activities, his emotional tolerance is tested throughout and rarely does he confide with every one. This is an inspiration from the true story of Chris Gardener who made a life for himself out of nothing with real aspiration and determination in the early 80s.

Hopeful movies with a predictable sweet ending has been known to us and been given in platter for all these times. But making a debut in English movies, director Gabriele Muccino does a character study since the pay off is known. It is not about getting the job or even finding a financial stabilization, it is about something every one are built upon, hope and relationship. And mainly to cling on to one’s life which might contain as Chris’s in many daily aspects lets him down in every possible ways. As he runs, we exhaust, when he cashes out, we are thinking what is next, when he cries, we do not know what to do which is what exactly Chris has in his mind. This in any way does not weigh it down into an over melodramatic sequence or does it constantly bombards us with failures hitting on Chris. More than the failure, we are taken away by his fighting spirit. He wipes off the tears and sweat to keep on moving with his son. Will Smith has created a passion for creating this role and it cannot be portrayed well than him.

How Muccino placed his camera among the busy streets but to notice only Chris? How even though Chris always among walking people on the sidewalk holds the extra focus apart from the camera to glow up or look up? That works in so many ways to bring on the widen approachability and light the character has. The place he visits becomes a place to be used upon for us. The familiarity with the surroundings among the audience is something very rarely to be achieved upon in a character studying movies. We feel the down town of San Francisco in every inch of its transportation, sweet and powerful scents of the women and men passing along. More than the time period of 80s, it is the location which gives the feel the film and the real Chris would have wanted.

I as many had the notion that the film is the usual hopeful ending giving a redundant picture I have seen pretty well in various many movies. And as a screen writer or some one taking up would have thought about it, but it is a success story which has the points in the toughness the man went through. Though the final prize is the ultimate relaxing moment, the path towards it should not be a strain and a chain of downing events to make us boring at the end of it rather it is a deeper look into this real life person.

Films like “The Pursuit of Happyness” carry the logo of formulaic films but unlike any of those, this is the best films in those cadres. The care which has been taken so much in following this character is such a flawless portrayal that it never falters even on minute occasion which would have been a give away Hollywood moment. For this commitment, the director and mainly Will Smith deserve the appreciation much more than they anticipate.

To make the movie work, there are these small and large characters to assist the state of mind of Chris or at least the mind he wants them to think are his son Christopher, Jay Twistle (Brian Howe), Martin Frohm (James Karen) and the Bone Density Scanners. Their performance and placement is as much as it is needed pitch perfect for Smith to make Chris work the way it needed to be.

It is the film which promises the hope and does not give it away easily. Films like this needs to work really hard to make the audience realize what the prize in the end means it to be. It is been given easily in dozens of sports inspiring films, umpteen romantic comedies and some seriously approaching movies with hope as its subtleness. “The Pursuit of Happyness” makes us work for the known hope which has been promised in the title and it is well deserved.

"The Hunting Party" (2007) - Movie Review

“The Hunting Party” opens with a text announcement that the ridiculous part of the film is based on true story and that’s what exactly happens. As the possibility of an event is put into question, we are reminded of that and we automatically smirk. This borderline handling of a dark comical satire with true events gives the film a much original look and a deeper saddening humour as well in the end. With beautiful locations of the mountains and woods with the dark remembrance in the post war city of Sarajevo, this is one of better films. But well, it has problems too.

The film stemmed from an article written by an American journalist Scott Anderson in “Esquire” magazine in October 2000 about his and four other journalists hunting for an interview with the war criminal Radovan Karadžić during the Bosnian War happened 1992-95. Here though changed upon to give better understanding and a dark comic thriller, it tells the story through the voice of Duck (Terrence Howard) who worked as a cameraman along with Simon Hunt (Richard Gere). They covered war zones and they liked the thrill of it as he says. An emotional breakdown causes Hunt to explode on national television expelling him out of the scenario. Five years later, Duck returns with an intern/rookie Network Vice President’s son Benjamin (Jesse Eisenberg) meets drunk and broke Hunt who promises of great story, which is to get an interview of a war criminal called The Fox (Ljubomir Kerekeš). The adventure begins in which we also come to know the real picture about the International Community in finding this person.

What works best in the film is the dynamics between these three characters. Quite unbelievable to see the young blood jumping off with fear but the “ridiculous” factor helps in it. Some where with that line, the Hollywood churning of entertainment kicks in to accept those discrepancies and mainly that the character works on it to make it maturing along with this thrill seeking veterans in the trade. Gere is smooth even in his ruthlessness and Howard as his subordinate who is now been soaked in the suns of luxury while misses the adventure is afraid of it too. I have no clue why his girl friend in Greece played by Joy Bryant is needed at all. Same with the character of the lost love Marda (Kristina Krepela) in the war for Hunt because the purpose for him to go on Fox does not need a personal attachment. The horrors of war he has witnessed and being an extreme thrill seeker is good enough to go after him.

With that good portion of 10 minutes being eliminated, the rest is truly impressive. The danger these guys take are real which happens in those war zones and the journalists who seek to reach out for these places. In a way, they are like the X-treme sports person only that the dangers are from bullets than a rock or a glacier. Even when the ending nears and I was wishing they do not take a conventional thriller climax, they take it but announce it with the factor of abnormality accepting it as an urban legend or a good finish one might expect. Lest, leaving some one to be killed by people is not an ending to be passed upon.

The camera work by David Tattersall which needs to play as a journalist itself in reporting the status of the story works in both covering a story and a film as well. There is an astonishing amount of villainous comic which surprisingly is good to make us laugh at these ridiculous situations, Hunt and his gang puts through. It some time reminded me of Guy Ritchie film making on content basis. Mostly because the characters these guys encounter resembles them.

In a totally unknown territory when they enter a bar and see the people cold in their eyes, the wrong men at wrong place and at definitely wrong time rings upon continuously in our ears. And we see Hunt playing it cool with concealed fear inside him which takes that scene to a land mine situation. Similarly there are numerous scenes which are edgy as thriller and gives chill at times to realize the reality in it.

The final message though might be taken as a cover up for an entertainment but the political satire involved appeals more as a fact. It still happens over in catching up of various war criminals. As Duck says to Benjamin on the break down of Hunt, it never is what you see. The video might bring the vision, sound and some times the emotion but the time frame it cuts to give the slice of the situation is never the situation.

Friday, February 08, 2008

"The Last Samurai" (2003) - Movie Review

Many have a down right aversion towards Tom Cruise. Mainly due to the reason that his chocolate boy outlook does not suit most of the roles or he does not have much of variations in the characters he takes. It is that the predictability of what Cruise is going to do for a sad or exuberant scene have come down very easily. And while it does appear so, it happens with many other long time actors even Pacino or De Niro and Hanks too. With Tom Cruise it gets amplified for some reason (may be due to his jubilant expression in “The Oprah Winfrey Show”). Regardless of that, he has tried out diverse roles and even if not a great acting, his efforts are diligent and can be seen on every film. He did it in “Magnolia” and in “The Last Samurai”, even if it is not a remarkable performance, it is something different, where Cruise mellows down and let Watanabe do the brilliant support he needed.

Director Edward Zwick’s movie cannot miss the comparison with “Dances with Wolves”. Both tell the story of a soldier experiencing the culture which has only been exposed as a blood seeking blind extremists. As Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) is sipping his guilt through alcohol, his commanding officer Colonel Bagley (Tony Goldwyn) whom he despises for his unmerciful act during the rampage of Native Americans, receives an offer to train the Japanese soldiers to war against the rebels. He accepts with bitterness and trains sincerely. He wishes death and grabs every opportune moment to put him through it. He asks a soldier to shoot right at him to prove his point of them being not ready to face the battle. Soon the attack happens and Algren is taken captive to the village, a natural beauty and serenity where the Samurai’s reside. Their head Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe) wants to learn his enemy. Thus begins the transformation of Algren into abiding the principles and sees the tradition getting muddled by the westernization. And more than that, he sees the same suffering and guilt residing in Katsumoto.

The good factor about the film is that the narration is mostly from Algren which is honest. There is no specification or aspect of which is grabbed upon by this character. He sees the people, the real character inside them. Even though the codes and way of Samurai may be foreign and may even be senseless at times, he is held by the power of the discipline it is been carried upon. He mingles with the people but rarely does he get close. Because he still is an outsider. The play of the dialogues and responses has been done with intelligence and reality. At the time when Algren is about to depart from the village, Katsumoto comes and says, “When we met first, you were enemy” and pauses, does not follow through it and heads back. Everyone mainly Algren understands everything and it does not become cocky but is the underlying blocks of how the character of Katsumoto is built.

The ending might be a sweet addition to satisfy the audience but cleverly ending it as a fiction or a thought of the author Simon Graham (Timothy Spall) who tells the story covers that part. The homage of Akira Kurosawa’s movies is blatant. The long shot of the troops, the landscapes, the mountains and the blossoming flowers are proper addition. Even all this, there is something missing in a good movie. Some where the conviction is lost in the end. The zeal of retaining the tradition is punctuated well enough by Katsumoto but the Emperor Meiji (Shichinosuke Nakamura) is flimsy and flexed as the film needed to resolve. This compromise leaves the film with Hollywood touch some times we never want to have.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

"The Steamroller and the Violin" (Language - Russian) (1961) - Movie Review

If a 43 minute film of Tarkovsky is going to make me impatient, I do not know what else I can talk about this director, who is hailed as the cinematic Beethoven. His work appeal to me only as a dull, unenergetic and irritatingly sedative random somber walk in the dark and never gets through the skull of mine. I had some moments to relinquish on the art and camera work, but did not sum up into an impressive film.

This short feature film was the work he did for his diploma work along with a fellow student, Andrei Konchalavsky, the co-writer. It follows the unusual friendship between a steam roller operator Sergei (Vladimir Zamansky) and a kid named Sasha (Igor Fomchenko) from socially higher class who wanders with his violin. Sergei saves Sasha from the regular bully of his street kids which pulls Sasha towards Sergei. Sergei responds too allowing him a ride in his steam roller. Before that, we see Sasha taking his music class wherein we have an unspoken moment with a little girl. What Tarkovsky is indirectly and secretively saying can only be interpreted by his hardcore fans, not me.

His shots are supposed to be poetic, carrying a weight of art through the visuals than a series of plot points or dramatization. Duly noted and accepted. Does it reflect out here? Couple of shots did that, especially the kaleidoscope reflections of various happenings behind the back ground of Sasha through numerous mirrors. Collage of those images does have those artful punctuations but sadly does not last. We drool through the uninteresting after noon session of hot sun, rain and the sullen evening effects with nothing but couple of dialogues between these new friends.

I have nothing more to add and it has lot to do with the short period of the film. There is not much of significant importance which got captured by my sleepy eyes. I am slowly giving up on Tarkovsky films as it marks to be not one of the areas of my brain to be interested for its abstract boredom. Apart from the short time period of the film causing the short review, there is not much to add either.

Monday, February 04, 2008

"Notes on a Scandal" (2006) - Movie Review

Stretching the moral boundaries especially in the manners of sexual advancement is a constant debate and a matter of interest for novelists and film makers. And “Notes on a Scandal” plays it with such a caution and it gets away with it nicely by the performance of three main performers, Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett and Bill Nighy. The film is based upon the book of the same name by Zoë Heller. It ends inconclusively which pushes us away either to come to a conclusion or to respect it as a short story of unsorted moral quests and actions. And that’s exactly director Richard Eyre would have intended.

Every one in their school days would have seen some one like Barbara Covett (Judi Dench), a hard crack with discipline and authority as the weapon over disoriented teenagers. And in a public school, the job comes with the territory of being like that. She has the hard earned respect out of fear and not of her skill in teaching the subject. It all comes to control. Never have been in control with her life, Barbara is the figure of fear and hence she can submit a single paragraph about her department and improvements to her headmaster and come unscathed, rather the other party will be in humiliation and becomes headless in authority. She maintains a journal and summarizes her deep silence which she goes through at various time instances in the school. She is alone, rigid, has iron curtain for her face and she tightens her inner desire into penning of notes with her own fantasy assumptions.

Her eyes lie on the new blonde, Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) who attracts bees of men with her curling dense sensual hair and a smile of innocence. While she is quite the opposite of Barbara, soon does Sheba lands in the hands of tyrannical presence of Barbara. Barbara aids in sorting out a fight with two boys in Sheba’s art class. One of the boys, Steven Connolly (Andrew Simpson) has developed a particular fondness with Sheba. Little does Barbara knows that Sheba willingly has given to her desires to the young boy. Sheba is a young wife for the older Richard (Bill Nighy). A teenage daughter Polly (Juno Temple) and a Down syndrome son Ben (Max Lewis), she is finding this new experience after ten years of loneliness being estranged by her busy family duties is no excuse, but she falls, quite miserably. Barbara while furious about this has now got Sheba by her throat, an opportunity for forming a bond, a forced one. She throws her card with cunning and cleverness, shading under the mode of friendship.

If not for the narration of Barbara, we would have been completely swept off by the gesture and assistance she showers over Sheba. Sure that we would have known about her sexual advancements, but definitely would not have suspected her machinations to make Sheba hers. As I have always showed my dissent towards using kids to the portrayal of intimate scenes at an age unaware of the traumas, the film barely escapes from that using a seventeen year old kid as fifteen. Here is where even I have a shameless moral partialness. But where can we draw the line? How the region of judgment of logic in our brain conflicts and gets defeated by the hormones of desires so easily? Nothing can be explained. “Notes on a Scandal” does scare us on our inner helplessness when desperate situations comes by.

“Little Children” had the same kind of emotional sufferings shadowed by the sexual tint. Watching the character of Barbara is the film. Her belief in a world created by her wherein she has convinced herself not once but twice to have a controlled lovable relationship without the reciprocation of other party. The only thing wherein Barbara and Sheba are same is their inability to talk with some one whom they are approached with care and consideration. Sheba with Richard while the small role of Barbara’s sister who tries to get the feel of this woman who has nothing but fierce negation of some one she does not intend to confide even her slightest honest opinion.

As the film hops on with the convenient performance of able actresses/actors, we are left with ambiguity of the take on this tale. But thinking back, it is a character study and the sexual instincts of clueless personalities. The act of submitting to the sexual deviance which has an obvious end makes us judge Sheba pretty easily. She has her share of insecure loneliness and boredom, and we get to see how miniscule that is when Barbara tells her miserable solitude of untouched sexuality. Burden and emotionally void life cannot be compared but the consequences of making it as an excuse to do the blunder ultimately costs. Sheba pays for her consequences but has Richard to share it, while Barbara lives in her unfulfilled dream world of chasing shadows, alone.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

"The Verdict" (1982) - Movie Classics

Sidney Lumet and Paul Newman light this film with the colour and the presence. It makes us believe on the intensity of trial sequences but the out of court action is the real battle, the game within this soul of doing the right thing. How many times have it been used in movies? Doing the right thing and its utmost purity/impurity in action happens in the pendulum of courts. The bone of contention which in this case, the truth, never tires in the film but instantly drains us in life. This is one such tale.

Frank Galvin (Paul Newman) is hitting the bottle hard and hardly has any case (3 cases in three and half years, losing all of them). He is diminishing his brilliance and his subordinate Mickey (Jack Warden) has had enough. He is still a good friend and advices him to settle for case against a renowned hospital and its two well respected doctors on the case of negligence which has put a pregnant woman in coma. The hospital knows the reality of Frank and yet, does not want to blow it up and wants to settle up. Frank is on the verge of being like this, wasted and disoriented for rest of his life and this is the no-brainer in the current world to settle up. He is happy. But in his minimal sobriety visit to the hospital to see the girl, makes him change his mind. He has a history and this might be a chance of redemption. Not because of doing the wrong thing in the past but not standing up till the end for the right thing he did.

He has one star witness and the defense with the loaded ammunition of numerous personnel working on the case under the wings of Mr. Concannon (James Mason) is quick to get him. Soon Frank is hanging out scrutinizing himself for putting in the pits of jeopardy and how it took him in one flick of a good settlement to nothing. He is confronted by the girl’s brother in law, Kevin Doneghy (James Handy). He is right. With pain and patience, Kevin and his wife Sally (Roxanne Hart) has waited enough to live a little for them. This is where along with Frank we are in the guilty gloom and morale questioning of the situation. What is right out here? What does settlement mean? Another flurry of consumer-economy spins its part over the pleasure and pain.

Seeing Paul Newman work Frank explains so much of how it would have inspired some one (may be even Clooney in “Michael Clayton”). We see Frank in dark silhouette playing pin ball and the outside reflects a cold chilly early morning in Boston. The sounds of the pin ball machine is heard, the noise which does not shadow the state of mind of Frank. He takes a sip on his beer, takes a puff on his cigarette and plays back. In that scene we know that Frank meditating his life in shambles through his mind subconsciously has been involved in a game of action, interest and no concern. This is his life and we get it.

“The Verdict” could have been named “Frank Galvin”. But the film surfaces out from this person. He is down at the bottom of a career in law and the only solace for him in this is that his self pity which by now he has trained himself considerable enough. And some one rattles him out of it, Laura (Charlotte Rampling). She blunts him in his face with the short acquaintance she has made and little do we know about her too. And the all supportive and open Mickey are too good of a supporting role for the character and to Newman as a performer.

Lumet structuring the screenplay by David Mamet uses the closed surroundings as that of a play. It does become a court drama but never does the emotional axis gets betrayed by the realm of cinematic indulgence. These are the movies which define that era. It gets sophisticated but still has the old wear. This quasi antique fair has become such a landmark and recreation to represent that time period. I wish how it would be if some one would try to recreate it. Black and White still can shed away the dusted clarity of the origins of the cinema and sometime become a comic of a routine, but this can be attempted with the undisturbed style and seriousness the 80s have created.

The legal battling stories are where the real balance of right and wrong lies. In fact the skewing nature of both is of high margins when it comes out there. But what is missed is the action which has brought them over to the courts. The action appears so small and sometimes we are made to think the excuses we come up for missing a signal or missing something trivial over the work and many other things. The reason for being careful, not paranoid and over cautious, but careful is what it gets stressed. We can never say, we were tired or we were not aware of something. It is either to take the responsibility or compromise your way out to suffer the life long torture of guilt hoping to be redeemed as Frank does or some may reason out themselves, like Dr. Towler (Wesley Addy).